Voice of Russia Interview

Chris Snowdon has a Youtube radio interview on his blog which I saw today, and found rather intriguing. It was on Voice of Russia, which was rather intriguing. And Amanda Sandford was outnumbered 3 to 1 by plain packet protestors. And there was an outburst by Chris Snowdon in the middle of it. And at the end Amanda Sandford says that the aim is to “drive smoking out of the country”,

I started out just wanting that bit, but – as ever – ended up transcribing the whole half hour show, and have consequently forgotten most of the questions that I had – except that I don’t believe that, since the advertising ban, that tobacco companies have “invested heavily” in making their packets brightly coloured and attractive. Most of the brands retain their traditional livery. Certainly all the rolling tobacco is exactly the way it always was.

I also wondered whether she was trying to suggest that when smokers take their packets out of their pockets and put them on a table, that is in her view a form of ‘marketing’, and that showing people your cigarette packet will constitute ‘advertising’, and you’ll have to keep the packet in your pocket. It certainly seemed to be what she was suggesting.

All of which will be obviated by cigarette re-packaging of the sort that I’m hard at work developing. For the past week I’ve been writing a computer-aided design package for cigarette packets.

Anyway, here it is. I haven’t had time to correct it, so it’s probably full of hideous typos which I’ll try to fix tomorrow.


Presenter of Voice of Russia

Amanda Sandford, Research Manager at ASH,

Amil Panya(sp?), from Hands off our Packs campaign

Chris Snowdon, author of Velvet Glove Iron Fist.

Mark Littlewood, Director-general of Institute Economic Affairs down the line.

P: Will removing branding from cigarette packets prevent young people from smoking?

AS: Yes. We think that removing the colourful branding from cigarette packs will make a difference, will help to reduce smoking among young people. In the UK since the tobacco advertising ban came into effect in 2003, smoking rates have halved amongst 11 to 15 year-olds, from 10% down to 5%. So that’s an encouraging sign. That’s a clear reflection of the importance of the ban. But what’s happened since then is that the tobacco companies have invested heavily in making the cigarette packs themselves the main marketing tool, now that advertising is banned the branding is very much focused on the packs. And research shows that young people find these very colourful, attractive packs much more appealing than a plain pack if they’re presented with both, and this has been done through eye-tracking research and a whole range of different measures. So there is research there to show that this will have a very positive impact in reducing smoking.

P: I’m going to come to you Amil Panya because you obviously are from Hands Off Our Packs campaign. What’s your response if research suggests that … made more interesting for young people, and it does have an effect on them?

AP: We need to discuss this research in more detail, but the only people who are going to more excited about this proposal than taxpayer-funded health lobbies will be people who counterfeit tobacco – criminal gangs, counterfeiters, essentially the black market -. If the government really wants to confiscate branding from legal products which already have high level of competition against the black market, commoditize them, homogenize them., it makes them a lot easier to replicate and it will boost the black market. And the problem with that, why I think – and a lot of people agree with me – that this will be more harmful for children retailers do. It’s illegal for thems to sell to under-18s. But criminal gangs obviously break the law, and they sell on street corners outside schools, and they’re the ones who are going to benefit from this proposal.

P: Already in supermarkets you can’t look at cigarettes, you have to ask for a particular brand and the shopkeeper has to pull a shutter. Isn’t that enough?

AS: No. It’s a step in the right direction. But it’s not going to be enough. Because when a smoker smokes they pull out the pack from their pocket or handbag and place it on the table. Smokers identify with particular brands. It’s a sort of status symbol, if you like. And certainly younger people tend to go for the more heavily promoted premium brands, because they perceive that to be something that’s really cool to smoke. This is something we’ve got to put a stop to, because there’s nothing actually very glamorous or sophisticated about getting ill from smoking. Half of all smokers will die prematurely, and before they die they probably have many years of ill-health through lung cancer, heart disease, or other problems. Smoking isn’t like other consumer products. It shouldn’t be out there being heavily promoted as something that’s an ordinary thing to do. We need to be moving towards a society where smoking is unusual, is out of the ordinary.

P: Chris Snowdon, you’re an author of Velvet Glove Iron Fist, do you think that this is going to have any effect on children, on stopping them from smoking?

CS: No, I don’t. I think Amanda has actually inadvertantly pointed out a couple of the major flaws in this proposal. She’s said that the evidence says that given the choice young people will pick the branded pack over the plain pack. This is self-evident. The point of the policy is that people won’t have a choice, they will have a choice to buy cigarettes and they will all be in plain packaging. The research itself is worthless, because it doesn’t get to the nub of the question. The nub of the question is: do people start smoking because of the packaging of cigarettes? And for that there is absolutely no evidence. And we also know that the tobacco industry don’t think there’s any evidence for it because we have millions of documents leaked onto the interent, private industry documents, and I’ve read many of them, and I’m sure that ASH have read many of them, and if they had some evidence that the industry felt this was a way of marketing towards young people, then I’m sure that it would be regurgitated ad infinitum.

AS: I think Chris is being disingenuous in suggesting that marketing doesn’t work, which is effectively what you’re saying, because marketing and advertising clearly does work, that’s why companies spend huge amount of money on it. And cigarettes are no different in that respect. The fact is that advertising marketing does work.

CS: All advertising, as you know, was banned in 1999. and ASH celebrated, saying that they had a total and comprehensive ban And they were delighted that never again would there be tobacco advertising.

AS: You know full well marketing does continue, and the packs themselves…

CS: No it doesn’t. It doesn’t. I don’t accept your idea that the pack is advertising.Well, it’s not. If a pack constituted advertising, it would already be illegal, because the 1999 Act banned it all. If you believe it’s advertising, take them to court. Take them to court.

AS: But the research does show that children are much more likely to smoke premium brands, and premium brands are those which are most heavily promoted.

AP: Can we talk about the research. Before this consultation was announced or leaked on Friday, the University of Stirling was hired by the department of health to do a systematic review of all the evidence out there whether plain packaging would work and stop kids from smoking. Unfortunately I feel sorrow for all of us who had to read through that document because it was fairly long, but the most important part of that were the limitations on that. They openly admitted that this had never been tried anywhere in the world, so they cannot know whether it will work. And secondly and most importantly, and I’ll read out what it says: “Studies that have been conducted in this research are based on hypothetical scenarios, not truly able to test how individuals would react or behave if plain packaging was to be introduced” Why that’s important is for two reasons. Firstly the research – which is conducted by people who know the answer they want anyway – asks someone What would you do in this situation? So you’re asking someone to rewind a few years and find out what they’d do. But more importantly, there’s a double hypothetical. Because it’s asking the person to then rewind and become a teenager again. What would you do when you’re sixteen AND were faced with this problem ? There are too many leaps of faith to be taken there to have this evidence regarded as in any way as conclusive. That is why we need to stress here that the government has promised an evidence-based policy on drug use. And there is no evidence for this They’ve just passed it in Australia. Let us wait to see what happens in Australia. That’s the key thing, the most sensible thing, that the government can do right now in the UK.

P: Is this too little too late though? If we wait for Australia to see what happens there, and the research is albeit hypothetical, what needs to be done to stop young children from taking up the habit? Is removing branding enough?

AS: Well I think that the point is that, certainly in the UK, the government has adopted quite a number of strong measures to help reduce smoking among both adults and young people, and that’s fine. But it’s obviously not sufficient. We need to do more. And it is right that the government is consulting on this issue. They will be looking at the evidence in this country and elsewhere. Obviously we accept that plain packs haven’t been introduced. So obviously can’t say that it will definitely have this impact, but I think the argument still holds that it is still a form of marketing, and that therefore it’s a logical extension of the tobacco advertisng ban that we have already.

P: We do have another guest. I’d like you to tell us now what what you would tell Andrew Lansley?

ML: I think that this is a ludicrous idea and concept. I think that there are actually simpler much more straightforward things you can do to make sure that tobacco is treated as an adult product, which it clearly should be. For example as I undertstand it at the moment there is no law against me going into a newsagents, buying 100 cigarettes, walking outside, and just passing them on to 14 or 15-year-old children. That would not be a breach of the law. I couldn’t charge for them, but I could procure them for them. So it seems to me that there are some simple enforcement steps we can take to prevent youngsters being able to legally purchase tobacco from newsagents and supermarkets without having to completely strip the branding from packets. What I’m particularly worried about is the precedent and principle that such a move would set. If we are going to do this for cigarettes, is it also true that some of the ways that some of the ways that alcohol products are packaged are more attractive to children than if they were in a plain bottle with a rat poison signature on it? Is it also true that, I don’t know, candy bars in nice glossy wrapping are more attractive to children? We can’t move to a monochrome world based on the view that people looking at two different types of packs understandably say, given the choice, I prefer the one that looks nicer. So I think there are some steps without this enormous leap in the dark that can actually cut down on youngsters smoking. And for adults, I would say it is perfectly reasonable for an adult who has chosen to smoke to allow them to have their cigarettes in a nice-looking packet. I don’t consider that an affront to civilisation whatsoever. So let’s make sure these products don’t get into the hands of children, but let’s leave adults alone. All of whom, every last person, certainly in the UK and pretty much on the planet, is aware that cigarettes contain serious health risks if you choose to smoke them. That battle has been won. Now allow people to make their own adult choice.

P: We have an imbalance in our discussion. Amanda is the only person who is for the branding retreat on cigarette packets. So I’d just like to come to you again, Amanda.

AS: I’d like to pick up on the point that Mark made there. Obviously we do support other tobacco control measures, and Mark mentioned about possibly banning proxy purchasing, adults buying on behalf of children.That is already in place in Scotland, and I think it’s working quite well. We wouldn’t have any objection to that as a measure. Licensing retailers is another important measure to control tobacco use, so that would be helpful. But as to his idea of a sort of domino theory, that where is it going to go next, will alcohol branding be removed and so on, we had all this argument with the advertising ban. No evidence of this whatsoever. Tobacco is unique. It’s uniquely dangerous. Alcohol can cause harm if it’s used, abused, or used in excess, same way as fatty foods and so on. But tobacco is unique, and needs to be treated uniquely because it is so dangerous.

CS: It’s a shame that this is radio, because I just saw Amanda’s nose grow by about three inches. This idea that it’s not a slippery slope is ludicrous. We have right now, sitting in parliament today, a Commons Select committee that are looking into the government alcohol strategy, and on the agenda, written in black and white, is plain packaging for alcohol. Going back to the complete advertising ban for tobacco, the BMA and many other groups are now campaigning for exactly the same thing for alcohol. It’s clearly following a tobacco blueprint. And this personally is what I find most dangerous about plain packaging. I’m absolutely convinced that if this happens with cigarettes then within weeks or months you’ll be having people calling for it to be applied to alcohol and junk food. Which is exactly what happened in Australia. <laughs> To say it’s a myth is crazy.

AS: They may be calling for it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen, ..

CS: Oh I think it will happen.

AS: …because everything must be reviewed on its merits, there’s a very strong case for tobacco, and

CS: That’s quite possible, Amanda, I agree. But the BMA and all these powerful groups are following the same lobbying tactics as used by yoursleves, which have proven to be very effective, and what they have on their side more than anything else is the matter of principle. Once you agree to the principle that the government should confiscate wholesale the packaging of a product and turn it into public propaganda because that product has a risk, then the degree of risk is irrelevant. There are many, may people who die from alcohol abuse, and all sorts of things. There is no principled reason to object alcohol in plain packaging and not cigarettes.

P: Hands off our packets? Tell me why?

AP: Why what?

P: Why should people be allowed to choose for themselves when the evidence is there that smoking does cause heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and you have campaigners from ASH who agree with this decision. Where do you sit morally to say sort of Hands Off Our Packets ?

AP: Morally, essentially we are a mature democracy and a free society. We therefore try to treat people as adults, and tell them that their lifestyle choices are for them to try and sort out for themselves, and their families and their communities. We do not want the government coming in and telling people how to live their lives because it has the opposite effect. And this is one of the key points with kids. This argument has been drawn around with kids. Why do children smoke? No sensible person could possibly think it’s because they see a shiny colour or a pattern. They do it because it’s naughty, they do it because they’re rebelling, they’re doing it because they’re sticking up two fingers up against their parents or society or government, everybody telling them it’s bad for them. This plain packaging hysteria will do exactly that. It will make it more rebellious. I think it’s immoral in itself. I think it’s immoral for the government to be trying to control people’s lifestyle. We need to responsible for ourselves. I want to see a reversal – and this is what we were promised with the coalition – in all this interfering nanny state nonsense in all parts of our lives. Please just let us deal with our own mistakes.

AS: Just to address this issue of adult choice and so on. Bear in mind, at least in the UK, around 2/3rds of children start smoking before the age 18, so I would question whether…

AP: Until very recently it was legal at 16, so that’s not a surprising statistic. Most people who start smoking are young. Until last year it was legal to do it.

AS: Okay, around a third start at the age of 16, certainly while they’re still at school. The point is about… Erm… Sorry, lost the thread there.

P: So what evidence have you got that it will get worse with plain packaging?

AP: I’ll have to be fair and be as open and honest as I wish the opposition would be. We have to make a value judgement. I’ll hold my hand up and say that I don’t have evidence. You cannot calculate this. But you can make a good sense judgement about what’s happened in the past, and how people behave, and how kids behave. I was at school most recently of everyone on this panel, and I’m going to maybe unfairly say, actually, kids smoke because they’re rebelling, and they will want to rebel more.

AS: No. The main reason that children take up smoking is because their parents smoke or their older siblings smoke. That’s the primary factor. But there are other factors which have a part to play, and the marketing and promotion of tobacco is clearly an important factor in encouraging young people to smoke.

P: Mark Littlewood, what’s next if we did see a ban on packaging? How would you see this develop?

ML: That’s my worry. We’ve already mentioned whether intellectually there’s an automatic leap onto alcohol or fast food or other products I think the problem I have with the continual camapaign to restrict tobacco more and more and more, is that It’s endless. Barely a week goes by without some tobacco control measure being proposed. It’s only in the last few days that the ban on dispalying tobacco products in large retail outlets has come in. It wasn’t so many weeks ago that there was a suggestion that we should ban all smoking in private cars, although Amanda didn’t say it, there’s a sort of implication that if you’ve got kids should you be allowed to smoke in your own home. It is just relentless I think that the problem is this: those like Amanda – and indeed like all of us – who are conscious of the risks associated with tobacco smoking,, but those who want more and more control need to sort of spell out When is this battle over? Let’s suppose we got to a situation in which 15% of all adults chose to smoke and 2 – 3% of youngsters under the age of 18 were smoking. Would that be acceptable? Would we actually say: Okay, some people are making daft decisions from their own health point of view, but it’s their own personal choice .Or would there be yet another raft of proposals and ideas and pieces of law to cut this number even further . The number of people smoking tobacco has dropped continually over the last 60 years or so, especially as the knowledge about health risks of smoking has become greater, but I think there comes a point, well the number of people who choose to smoke at the moment, particularly adults, well, that’s just up to them. And we’re not going to try and design a society in which we have got the number down to zero percent, we’re going to assume that the 20 or 25% who smoke are making their own decision, contribute a vast amount of taxation when then buy cigarettes, which dwarfs the amount spent on the NHS for treating any smoking related diseases. When is this over?

P: I want to ask you, Chris. Is this an economy or health issue? How political is it?

CS: How political is it? As far as it’s a prohibitionist enterprise it’s very political because they can’t get to their end goal without endless laws. And Mark’s quite right, there’s an annual campaign now., and people like Amanda turn up and say we’ve got overwhelming evidence for this and that. I’ve noticed that a lot of journalists seem to be getting jaded recently, and I’m not surprised. But the end goal is prohibition. It always has been for many, many years now. I read an article recently written in the journal Tobacco Control in which they discussed: Would it be acceptable if 0.5% of the population smoked, or would that still be too much because too many people would be dying from smoking-related diseases. That’s the endgame. That’s what they need to do. All this stuff about children really is so much hot air. It’s very easy to say ‘Think of the children’. But when people say that they almost always looking at restricting the liberties of grown adults. It’s nothing to do with children. It’s not really anything to do with health. Plain packaging by the antismoking movement’s own admission won’t do anything about existing smokers. It might speculatively affect people who were born yesterday in 20 years time, if tobacco is still legal, which they hope it won’t be.

AS: I think Chris has nailed his colours to the mast very clearly there, and obviously exposing his clear links with the tobacco industry. To come out with such a heartless statement is quite staggering.

CS: What statement.?

AS: About whether it’s an economic issue and not a health issue. Of course it’s health issue. We still have 100,000 people dying every year of smoking-related diseases in this country. And about 300,000 children taking it up. We have to do more to stop it. Unless people like you really want people to carry on taking up an addiction…

AP: We have to stop smoking. We have to stop smoking. Completely. Is that it?

AS: We are working towards a tobacco-free society. Yes. We endorse what Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, is looking for, because it is just totally unacceptable in the 21st century we have thousands and thousands of people who are needlessly taking up a habit…

CS: <raised voice> It is none of your business!

AS: Of course it’s our business!

CS: <raised voice>You are a busybody of the most classic variety!

AS: We are here to help people who want to quit smoking.

CS: <raised voice>I don’t want your help! I smoke! I don’t want your help! Your help has been a real pain!

AS: Well, you carry on. You kill yourself. That’s fine by you.

CS: But you won’t let me!

AS: Because two-thirds of smokers actually do want to quit. They’re looking for help. Most smokers regret ever taking it up in the first place.

AP: I tell you the flip side of this is that people like me who don’t smoke are actually encouraged to because constantly they’re being told by every angle through government and taxpayer-funded health lobbies to tell us how to live our lives and what to do.

AS: Oh rubbish! Absolute rubbish! If you’re not adult enough to make your own decisions, that’s…

AP: Well, thank you very much. I’m glad you concede that. So leave us alone.

ML: She’s right. A lot of people smoke and want help and support in giving up. And it seems to me that it’s a legitimate health requirement. Go to your doctor and say I need some help in giving up smoking and what would you suggest… there’s a whole range of products… But what troubles me is that Amanda seems to have a problem within a modern and free society people such as Chris and myself can make the decision that we want to smoke tobacco. I smoke about 20 cigarettes a day. I don’t wish to give up. I’m conscious of the health risks. I pay substantial tax on the tobacco I smoke. For Amanda that seems to be unacceptable that I’m choosing to do that…

AS: I quite accept your point of view. You’re perfectly entitled to do that. I’m just repeating the fact the vast majority of smokers recognise that they are addicted, they do want help in quitting, and it’s part of our role to help them to quit, but also to prevent children from ever starting to smoke.

CS: You don’t help them to quit! You don’t help them. ASH have never set up stop-smoking clinics. You’re doing nothing to get snus legalised and encourage people to use electronic cigarettes, things that are actually useful. You have never helped smokers give up. You have been a lobbying organisation since the day you were born. All you do is demand prohibitionist laws, incremental laws moving towards prohibition. You don’t help anyone.

P: But don’t we need lobby group such as ASH to help influence government policy? Because we obviously have people here who obviously come from an economic background and a freedom of speech and a freedom of thought, but there is a space for lobby groups.

CS: If they’re voluntary. But ASH isn’t a voluntary group There are no voluntary antismoking groups, because most people don’t care about it. The average man in the street doesn’t care about plain packaging. No-one’s going to get up on a Sunday and go round knocking on doors saying please lobby your MP for plain packaging. ASH is a state-funded lobby group. It is state-funded activism. Astroturfing by any other name

P: You must defend that, Amanda.

AS: Actually in terms the public support for plain packaging, we’ve already found that almost two-thirds of adults do support it.

AP: I’m going to bring up that poll commissioned very recently by ASH. It was very disingenuous. I’m very disappointed that she brought it up. What it effectively did de facto was put a picture in front of someone of a baby, and said: Do you want this baby to die? That’s pretty much what the poll was. It did not categorically and simply say: Would you support plain packaging?

AS: The whole point of the question is… What is the point of asking a person’s view on plain packaging if you can’t actually show them what it’s going to be like? What we did was we showed them a pack of what it would look like, very clearly with the health warning. That’s the whole point of it, a plain pack with a graphic health warning will be the dominant feature on the pack, and it would it take away the branding. That’s the whole point of it, to make the health warning more prominent.

AP: Just to answer your question on whether this is an economic or political or health issue. We do not know how effective it’s going to be. Potential downsides to our economy are potentially devastating. Our retailers are already spending £16 million putting in a tobacco display ban. Groups like the association of community stores have already said: Our small shops cannot afford this, another whack on us. This is not what the economy needs. We need some growth. And we need less busybodies.

P: I would like a message from you to Andrew Lansley and how you would like this consultation to play out, and how much of an effect it will genuinely will have on whether children take up smoking.

AS: We strongly support the consultation. We urge people to read it and to respond. We think it’s a very important measure that will have a lasting impact to help drive smoking out of this country and make it history.

CS: The public consultation will almost certainly give a majority support to the policy by the way consultation is rigged. If you look at the display ban consultation, which was exactly the same as this one, the state-funded pressure groups such as ASH, DoH front groups, which are paid millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money using that money to round up anyone they can find using email campaigns, website campaigns, and postcards. So it won’t reflect public opinion one bit.

ML: The sensible thing to do is see how it pans out in Australia, the first country to bring it in. There’s all sorts of unintended potential consequences. There’s huge legal battle going on in Australia whether banning packaging is legal. Let’s just step back for a couple of years. If in 3 years time there are huge public health benefits, that the black market economy have been no way assisted by the fact they need to replicate one pack instead of 180, that young people are no longer taking up smoking because they’re no longer seduced by gold leaf, then we would have an evidence base which might support Amanda. But if turns out that it has zero effect, that it’s been very expensive, that the government is being sued, that the black market grows, then we would know that it’s a policy that we wouldn’t want to replicate here.

AP: My message to Andrew Lansley. There is an industry funded by your department, and therefore by taxpayers, which is designed to lobby the government to persecute minority lifestyle choices. It’s got to stop. It won’t stop with tobacco unless he puts an end to it now. So please do that.

About Frank Davis

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35 Responses to Voice of Russia Interview

  1. Wiel Maessen says:

    People like Amanda know a lot of sound bites but, when asked, never can tell what the evidence really says. We would more often need to ask them in public debate what independent studies have proven their sound bite. And by INDEPENDENT I mean studies that are carried out by scientists and organisations who have no political or financial interest in the outcome of the study.


    Friday May 4,2012
    By Macer Hall Have your say(8)
    SENIOR Eurocrats are secretly plotting to create a super-powerful EU president to realise their dream of abolishing ­Britain and other nation states, the Daily Express can reveal.

    A covert group of EU foreign ministers has drawn up plans for merging the jobs currently done by Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, and Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.

    The new bureaucrat, who would not be directly elected by voters, is set to get sweeping control over the entire EU and force member countries into ever-greater political and economic union. Tellingly, the UK has been excluded from the confidential discussions within the shady “Berlin Group” of Europhile politicians, spearheaded by German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle.

    Opponents fear the plan could create a modern-day equivalent of the European emperor envisaged by Napoleon Bonaparte or a return to the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne that dominated Europe in the Dark Ages. They are concerned that David Cameron’s coalition Government is doing nothing to prevent the sinister plot. The secret talks were uncovered by Independent Labour peer Lord Stoddart of Swindon.

    This is a truly ridiculous idea that must never be allowed to happen
    Euro-MP Paul Nuttall, of the UK Independence Party

    “This is a plot by people who want to abolish nation states and create a United States of Europe,” he said. “The whole thing is barmy. These people are determined to achieve their final objective.

    “The only hope for Britain is to leave the EU and become an independent nation.”

    The move will give further momentum to the Daily Express’s hugely popular crusade for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

    Tory backbench MP Douglas Carswell said: “It doesn’t matter how you arrange the offices of these technocrats, they are useless at arranging our lives for us and they are not elected so they have no legitimacy.

    “My worry is that the president will end up having the charisma of Van Rompuy and the economic management skills of Barroso.”

    Euro-MP Paul Nuttall, of the UK Independence Party, said: “This is a truly ridiculous idea that must never be allowed to happen. It sounds as if they are trying to go back to the days of the Holy Roman Emperor.”

    At present, the two senior EU bureaucrats, Mr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy, are locked in a bitter power struggle to determine who is the true big cheese or “grand fromage” in Europe. Former Portuguese premier Mr Barroso, who heads the EU’s executive arm and was elected to his post by members of the European Union, is understood to resent the rival fiefdom of Belgian Mr Van Rompuy, who was chosen by the heads of ­government of EU member states to represent them.

    Under the plan, a single figure would be elected by Euro-MPs to perform both roles.

    Supporters of the move believe that the rival presidencies are undermining the EU’s ability to speak with a single voice. They argue that merging the two jobs will create a powerful European leader who is capable of pursuing the federalist dream of a united Europe which has been severely shaken by the eurozone crisis.

    Lord Stoddart confirmed the existence of the plot thanks to a parliamentary written answer in the House of Lords. He asked Foreign Office ministers to reveal what they knew about the merger talks.

    In response to his inquiry, Tory Foreign Office minister Lord Howell of Guildford said: “We are aware of one group of EU foreign ministers meeting on an informal basis to discuss a variety of issues related to the future governance of the EU.

    “While the UK is not part of that group, we understand that one idea under discussion is a merger of the positions of president of the European Council and president of the European Commission.”

    Lord Howell added: “A merger of the two presidencies would create a potential conflict of interest, undermine the quality of the EU’s decision-making processes and upset the institutional balance within the EU.” Lord Stoddart said: “These sorts of informal discussions within the EU have a habit of rapidly being transferred into formal proposals.

    “Since the Government is not party to these discussions, its reservations are academic.

    “Such a merger would represent a massive shift of power into the hands of a single, unelected bureaucrat. The Government should be taking this far more seriously and voicing its objections very strongly.”

    He added: “The holder of this new office would be both Europe’s political and administrative leader, giving them far more powers than those given to the US president.

    “It really is a great disappointment that we have a Conservative-led Government that is supposed to be Eurosceptic yet ministers just go along with this.


    • Err it looks important Frank!

    • Frank Davis says:

      At present, the two senior EU bureaucrats, Mr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy, are locked in a bitter power struggle to determine who is the true big cheese or “grand fromage” in Europe.

      Well at least we know what the EU dictator will be called. “Le grand fromage.”

      • reinholdfrombavaria says:

        In German we say “großer Käse” (big cheese) when we mean “total balderdash”.

        • Frank Davis says:

          In which case, will Rompuy or Barroso become the “großer Käse” – or the “großer Kaiser”?

        • reinholdfrombavaria says:

          “Großer Käser”, I suggest.

          (In Latin lessons, where the Latin “c” on principle was – in contrast to Church Latin – to be pronounced as a “k”, Caesar and Cicero used to be the great exception, and for us it was always an amusement to call them “Kaesar” and “Kikero”, too. In German, “ae” is pretty much the same as “ä”, so “Kaesar” sounds like “Käser”, and a Käser ist a cheese-maker.)

        • Blessed are the cheesemakers!

  3. waltc says:

    On Topic: Christ, I loved it. Snowdon’s explosion. Damn well time that someone got hot and told the bag off. And plainly exposed the obvious. They will always, as she says, need to “do more.” As for her “evidence” based on…eye-tracking??!– what I joke. If I wrapped spinach in red foil and a chocolate bar in olive drab, everybody’s “eyes” would go to the spinach. Which doesn’t mean they’d buy it, let alone eat it. Or reject the chocolate. And, yes, if she (claims to) believe that it’s parents smoking that influences kids, of course the move will be to stop all parents from smoking in their homes. The next frontier.

  4. idenisovich says:

    If the “evidence” that two thirds of smokers want to give up is as objective as that claiming support for plain packs, then I think that we can assume that it is yet another myth for those who hate to hide behind. Reducing smokers to helpless addicts in need of help, allows busybodies like Sandford to feel no guilt when advocating policies intended to shame and coerce them into behaving the way that she and her cronies want them to. I am sure that people do genuinely want to quit but I wonder how many simply say they do because of the constant harassment from ASH, CRUK and the DH. I would not trust survey evidence from any of these sources. They are consistently dishonest.

    • prog says:

      And not forgetting those whose primary reason for wanting to quit is cost. We’ve all been aware of the health warnings for donkey’s years but up until a couple of decades ago cost was not a major consideration. Hence the upsurge in smuggling post 1980s.

  5. Frank Davis says:

    I’ve edited out most of the egregious mistakes, I think.

    I suspect that Chris Snowdon may have got angry because Amanda Sandford had just smeared him as being a tobacco company stooge when she said was “obviously exposing his clear links with the tobacco industry.” when the only mention he’d made of tobacco had been to say that he’d read an article in Tobacco Control.

    • They always say that: the Ashites think that everybody who disagrees with them are tobacco company stooges, that tobacco companies pay them to be their advocates.
      Hmmm… Nice work if you can get it!

      • jredheadgirl says:

        Lol! I think that everyone here will appreciate this article:

        Congratulations, you are part of Big Tobacco

        “One of the main problems with this call to arms is that Big Tobacco has nothing to do with House Bill 2690.”


        • Jred I hope you spent your Big Tobacco check on a new house or a really glitzy car for those big gigs you attend now after being so well paid by Big tobacco. Me Im investing in old ashtrays as I have a feeling the nostalgia of smoking is comming back and a high demand will be at hand!

  6. beobrigitte says:

    Perhaps Amanda Sandford needs to return to earth as a matter of urgency:

    CS: If they’re voluntary. But ASH isn’t a voluntary group There are no voluntary antismoking groups, because most people don’t care about it. The average man in the street doesn’t care about plain packaging. No-ones going to get up on a Sunday and go round knocking on doors saying please lobby your MP for plain packaging. ASH is a state-funded lobby group. It is a state-funded activism. Astroturfing by any other name

    P: You must defend that, Amanda.

    AS: Actually in terms the public support for plain packaging, we’ve already found that almost two-thirds of adults do support it.

    Almost 2/3 of adult support plain cigarette packaging? We can safely add that Amanda’s nose has grown a further 5″ in length….

    AP: My message to Andrew Lansley.
    There is an industry funded by your department, and therefore by taxpayers, which is designed to lobby the government to persecute minority lifestyle choices. It’s got to stop. It won’t stop with tobacco unless he puts an end to it now. So please do that.

    Perhaps, as taxpayers, we all could claim our involuntary “donation” to this FAKE CHARITY ASH back ?

  7. garyk30 says:

    AS: “Half of all smokers will die prematurely”

    How stupid and meaningless.
    By definition, half of all never-smokers will die prematurely.

    The rest of her babble is just as useless.

  8. jackiec06 says:

    Interesting: While listening to the program, I saw a video listed on the right that claimed that microwaving a cigarette for 30 seconds removed the FSC…the video seemed to bear that out:

    • Im trying it right now!

    • Frank Davis says:

      FSC? Fire Safe Cigarette?

      • Yes Frank I nuked 1 cig for 30 seconds and lit it with on unuked cig,the unuked went out at the first band on the paper the nuked cig burned right on thru and they taste better. I nuked a whole pack open and apart with no packaging as the foil will set afire from the zoomies out of the magnetron……….I been smoking them all afternoon and seem like the originals pre-FSC……

        All I can say is try it with your brand and see. Just do about 5 and se if you find any diference. I smoke marlboro reds 100s in the box.

        • Frank Davis says:

          I smoke roll-ups.

        • Rose says:

          Thanks Jackie for the tip and thank you Harley for doing the experiment.

          I may not smoke readymades myself but I know a person who does and he has been waiting with some trepidation for when his normal cigarettes run out of stock and are replaced by FSC’s.

          Now we just have to buy a microwave oven.

        • beobrigitte says:

          In case they invent FSCP (Fire Safe Cigarette Paper) – is your microwave 450W, 600W or 900W? Just in case I will have to reduce the time.

        • jackiec06 says:

          Wow…that’s amazing! So glad you tried it, Harley! How long did you microwave a full pack? I have a lot of friends who smoke so I’m gonna post this on Facebook.

        • I just did em for 30 seconds and seemed ok, My microwaves a 500 watter……

  9. After ya get past the Bullshit from OWEbama and his socialists we get to the facts:

    29.7 Million Americans Seek Work
    19% is the actual unemployment number not 8.1% as the Kenyan claims!

    People ask, why all the talk about dogs and contraceptives? The reason is: jobs.

    Tomorrow the Labor Department will release its April employment report. If the rate goes down, the administration will brag a bit, but they won’t dwell on it. They know that the unemployment rate does not reflect the actual number of people who need work. Did you ever wonder how many of them are really out there?

    Let’s put in a pre-recession, real numbers perspective. In July 2007, at the peak of the bling-years boom, there were 146.1 million people employed, 7.1 million unemployed, and 4.5 million working part-time “for economic reasons,” which added to the unemployed gives the number for “underemployed” (U6). There were 78.7 million people not in the labor force. The unemployment rate was 4.6%.

    Last month, in March 2012, there were 142 million employed, 12.7 million unemployed, 7.7 million U6, and 87.9 million “not in the labor force. The unemployment rate is now (supposedly) 8.2%.

    With 154.7 million in the labor force, 1% represents about 1.55 million people. The unemployment rate is 3.6% higher, so there ought to be about 5.4 million less people working than five years ago. That’s not true. There are indeed 5.6 million more unemployed, but there are also a staggering 9.2 million more people “not in the labor force,” most often because they can’t find a job. That means the total number of additional people actually out of work compared to 2007 is 14.8 million, or 9.7% of the labor force. Add that to the original 4.6%, and the actual rate of unemployment is about 14.3%. Also, there are 3.2 million more people working part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work. Let’s add. Today, there are 18 million more people not working or unable to find the job they want than in 2007. Add in the original 7.1 million already unemployed in 2007, plus the original 4.6 million U6, and the total is 29.7 million. In a universe of 155 million workers, the real U6 rate is thus approximately 19%. This is all Dept. of Labor data, offering an apples to apples comparison.

    These 29.7 million people are anonymous, nameless, faceless. But the President’s team knows they are out there, and that they are highly likely to vote. So they don’t want to talk about jobs. They want to change the subject. Hence, more talk about dogs and contraceptives.


    • Anything to massage the real unemployment figures. Its’ a huge problem over here, so lets distract people with the Queen’s Jubilee and theOlympics instead!
      Speaking of ‘Fake Charities’ how about adding A4e to the list, and others like them who supposedly ‘help people find work’. Well – they don’t.

  10. jredheadgirl says:

    CS: “You don’t help them to quit! You don’t help them. ASH have never set up stop-smoking clinics. You’re doing nothing to get snus legalised and encourage people to use electronic cigarettes, things that are actually useful. You have never helped smokers give up. You have been a lobbying organisation since the day you were born. All you do is demand prohibitionist laws, incremental laws moving towards prohibition. You don’t help anyone.”

    Nailed it.

    “If they’re voluntary. But ASH isn’t a voluntary group There are no voluntary antismoking groups, because most people don’t care about it. The average man in the street doesn’t care about plain packaging. No-one’s going to get up on a Sunday and go round knocking on doors saying please lobby your MP for plain packaging. ASH is a state-funded lobby group. It is state-funded activism. Astroturfing by any other name”

    Nailed it again.

  11. “It is none of your business! You are a busybody of the most classic variety!”
    Yes, nailed it again! It’s so true, they never stop. Ever.
    Very interesting and very entertaining interview. Thanks for posting that.

  12. Pingback: Does 30 sec Microwave Fix FSC? | Frank Davis

  13. James Burkes says:

    If only debates like this were actually allowed on TV. People would soon wake up and clamour for the end of ASH. I’ve noticed many non-smokers have now had it up to the back teeth with Tobacco Control, too. Even those people I know who supported the Ban are now conceding that “enough is enough,” “it’s gone too far” and that their current approach is “persecution” (all words and phrases I’ve heard expressed in recent weeks by people who usually don’t give a nano-second’s thought to smokers or smoking).

    Lansley and his ilk are tying themselves to a sinking ship by working with these people. I mean, hasn’t he noticed that he can push through massively unpopular NHS reforms that are opposed by every major health group and just get criticised, yet as soon as he starts hanging around with the prohibitionists the predictions that “he’ll be out by the next reshuffle” start flying about? Working with these people is not popular, is NOT a vote-winner. So why do they keep doing it?

    • beobrigitte says:

      Even without debates on TV, people are waking up. In my area they most certainly changes in attitude and behaviour towards smokers are noticeable as one by one jumps off the ASH-bandwagon.
      Lansley and his ilk are tying themselves to a sinking ship by working with these people. I mean, hasn’t he noticed that he can push through massively unpopular NHS reforms that are opposed by every major health group and just get criticised, yet as soon as he starts hanging around with the prohibitionists the predictions that “he’ll be out by the next reshuffle” start flying about?

      It isn’t only Lansley who has no idea of how disadvantageous it is to hang out with AShites or anyone else sponsored by Tobacco Control.
      Nick Clegg’s whimpering last week about lost votes is not due to the coalition; Nick Clegg lost the votes of smokers – we have not forgotten that Nick Clegg stated: “the smoking ban and the death penalty are not subject to review” and we smokers will never forgive him for associating the smoking ban with the death penalty.
      Lansley is heading the same way.

      Smokers have voted – again with their feet -; they stayed at home. Wasn’t the turnout a disaster? One example, Salford:
      The turnout for the Local Elections in Salford was 46,673 or 26.85%.
      (Reinhold, doesn’t this turnout remind you of something???)

      So the Anti-smokers were out in force to vote Labour. Why? Because Labour is easily led.

      I only hope we smokers will vote – again with our feet – in the next national election. And EVERY PARTY better take note of our number!

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